Charles Foster joins us from the UK to discuss his fantastic new book, Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness (Metropolitan Books). He will be in conversation with novelist Gregory Norminton.
"Hugely moving, filled with intelligence, Being a Human scurries between centuries with us between its teeth. Charles Foster has invoked a living presence in these pages, a contract with the uncanny. To know a thing about the future we need to retrace our steps into our old mind. We could start here." —Martin Shaw, author of Smoke Hole
This event will be streamed on our Crowdcast channel.
About Being a Human
A radically immersive exploration of three pivotal moments in the evolution of human consciousness, asking what kinds of creatures humans were, are, and might yet be
How did humans come to be who we are? In his marvelous, eccentric, and widely lauded book Being a Beast, legal scholar, veterinary surgeon, and naturalist extraordinaire Charles Foster set out to understand the consciousness of animal species by living as a badger, otter, fox, deer, and swift. Now, he inhabits three crucial periods of human development to understand the consciousness of perhaps the strangest animal of all—the human being.
To experience the Upper Paleolithic era—a turning point when humans became behaviorally modern, painting caves and telling stories, Foster learns what it feels like to be a Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer by living in makeshift shelters without amenities in the rural woods of England. He tests his five impoverished senses to forage for berries and roadkill and he undertakes shamanic journeys to explore the connection of wakeful dreaming to religion. For the Neolithic period, when humans stayed in one place and domesticated plants and animals, forever altering our connection to the natural world, he moves to a reconstructed Neolithic settlement. Finally, to explore the Enlightenment—the age of reason and the end of the soul—Foster inspects Oxford colleges, dissecting rooms, cafes, and art galleries. He finds his world and himself bizarre and disembodied, and he rues the atrophy of our senses, the cause for much of what ails us.
Drawing on psychology, neuroscience, natural history, agriculture, medical law and ethics, Being a Human is one man’s audacious attempt to feel a connection with 45,000 years of human history. This glorious, fiercely imaginative journey from our origins to a possible future ultimately shows how we might best live on earth—and thrive.
About Charles Foster and Gregory Norminton
Charles Foster is the author of Being a Beast, which won the 2016 Ig Nobel Award for biology and was a finalist for the Baillie Gifford Prize. He teaches medical law and ethics at the University of Oxford and his writing has been published in National Geographic, the Guardian, Nautilus, Slate, the Journal of Medical Ethics and many other venues. He lives in Oxford, England.
Gregory Norminton is a British novelist. His fifth and latest novel, The Devil's Highway, was published in the UK by 4th Estate in 2018. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, and he lives with his wife and daughter in Sheffield, England.